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The artwork was rejected. Then Banksy put his name to it

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The Royal Academy's annual summer exhibition, which opened to the public in London on Tuesday, has been one of Britain's most popular art shows since 1769 for a simple reason: anyone can submit a work to be displayed alongside those of names like David Hockney and Anish Kapoor, and many of the works are available for sale to the public. They just have to get past a committee of artists first.

This year, over 20,000 works were submitted to that committee, which was led by the artist Grayson Perry and featured other leading British artists like Cornelia Parker and Phyllida Barlow. Just 827 made the final cut.

A man poses in front of British artist Banksy's "Vote to Love", spray paint on a UK Independence Party (UKIP) placard, and other works in the Royal Academy's annual exhibition in London.

Photo: Matt Dunham

But the thousands of rejected artists should not feel too bad, because a global superstar was rejected too: the graffiti artist Banksy.

On Monday, Banksy said on Instagram that he had submitted a work under the name "Bryan S. Gaakman" an anagram of "Banksy anagram" only to have it turned down.

A month later, Perry contacted Banksy and asked if he would submit a piece. Banksy sent a revised version of the rejected work, which is now on display.

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In a statement, the Royal Academy confirmed Banksy's account but added, "The work currently in the summer exhibition is different from the original version submitted." Perry did not respond to a request for comment.

The Banksy work on display, Vote to Love, is a commentary on Britain's decision to leave the European Union. It features a "Vote to Leave" placard used during campaigning around the 2016 Brexit referendum. Banksy has altered the placard to say "Vote to Love."

In the exhibition catalogue, the work is priced at £350 million ($620 million), somewhat above Banksy's auction record of $1.87 million. The price is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a much-mocked claim by the Vote Leave campaign that the UK could spend an extra £350 million a week on healthcare if it left the European Union.

The exhibition catalogue asks potential buyers to "refer to sales desk" to learn the actual cost. (The Royal Academy would not provide it when approached.)

Banksy is not the first person to submit works anonymously to the annual exhibition. In 1947, Winston Churchill successfully submitted two works under the name "David Winter". One of the Churchill works, Winter Sunshine, is on display at the Royal Academy in a separate show about the history of the exhibition.

Banksy has succeeded in getting works into major British and American museums and galleries by unorthodox means before. In 2005, he hung a piece of fake prehistoric cave art featuring a man pushing a shopping cart in the British Museum in London. It went unnoticed for several days.

Most commentators on Banksy's Instagram post were supportive, but some said the committee had made the correct decision in rejecting the work first time round.

"Let's be honest, Banksy," reads one comment: "This is a weak piece devoid of the trademarks for which you've become known. Submitting under a fake name allowed the judge to evaluate without the weight of your reputation and he made the right call." The commenter added the hashtag #YouCanDoBetter.

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